The federal court system in the United States is a series of courts responsible for hearing both criminal and civil cases relating to federal statutes or matters authorized under the Constitution. The federal courts have limited jurisdiction, only ruling on cases that fall under federal law such as bankruptcy cases, tax law, maritime law (also referred to as admiralty), cases involving litigants from different states, treaty violations, or other types of cases that cannot be tried under state law.\nThe federal judiciary of the United States has three basic tiers. Parties first argue their cases in the lower courts, and may appeal their cases to the higher courts after a decision has been made. Below is the basic structure of how the federal court system functions: \n\n1. __District courts__. The US District Courts are the first level of the federal judiciary process, where cases are heard for the first time (referred to as original jurisdiction). District Courts are also referred to as trial courts. There is at least one district court in every state (including the District of Columbia), as well as four US territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Every district court has at least one District Judge who is appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. These judges have lifetime appointments, unless they are removed through impeachment by Congress. At this level, the US. Attorney serves as the primary prosecutor. In some cases, a magistrate judge appointed by the district court may oversee certain aspects of a civil or criminal case, such as handling pre-trial matters like settlements, arraignments, and pleas. \n2. __Circuit courts__. Also known as the courts of appeals or appellate courts, these courts are divided into 13 circuits, with each circuit covering a particular region of the US Each circuit is also covered by multiple circuit court judges. The circuit court judges are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate, and they serve lifetime appointments unless removed through impeachment by Congress. After a case is decided in the trial court, appeals may be made at this level to a panel of judges. To file an appeal, the party or parties submit briefs, arguing why the decision should be affirmed or reversed. If the decision is affirmed, the court schedules a time for the attorneys to present their oral arguments. \n3. __The Supreme Court__. Established by Article III of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the country, and the final level of appeal. Eight associate justices and one chief justice serve on the supreme court. They provide final jurisdiction over appeals. However, in order for the Supreme Court justices to hear an appeal, parties must file a writ of certiorari, which the justices will use to determine its validity. If it is accepted, the US Supreme Court will take briefs and oral arguments. If it is rejected, the lower court’s decision remains.\nUnited States federal courts handle cases in which the federal government is a party, which includes a number of civil and criminal matters. These are the types of cases that are tried in federal court. \n\n1. __Bankruptcy__: Federal courts may deal with matters relating to both business and personal bankruptcy. Different types of bankruptcy may be filed depending on the individual situation, but all bankruptcy cases are determined by the federal court system, and cannot be tried at the state level. \n2. __Constitutional matters__: Cases having to do with a law that may violate the constitution are heard before the federal judiciary system. Certain landmark cases—like *Brown v. the Board of Education*—heard in the Supreme Court can affirm or reject the constitutionality of a law and establish important precedents. \n3. __Inter-state cases__: Federal courts have jurisdiction over disputes in which the parties are from different states, when the dispute is between two states, or when one party is a state and the other is an individual from another state. \n4. __Habeas corpus issues__: Habeas corpus is a writ protecting prisoners from having their constitutional rights violated. In a habeas corpus case, a prisoner may bring an argument against the constitutionality of their imprisonment to the courts. \n5. __Admiralty law__: Cases that fall under the jurisdiction of maritime or admiralty law may be heard by the federal court system. Cases like this may include the enforcement of a maritime lien, or cases that involve the seizure of a vessel. \n6. __US laws and treaties__: Any case that involves the laws of the federal government, or agreements made between the US and foreign governments, falls under the jurisdiction of federal court. \n7. __US ambassadors and public ministers__: Cases that involve public servants or official public ministers of the US are tried in federal court.\n\nThere are a series of specialized federal courts that fall under the umbrella of the federal court system, some of which were established under Article I of the Constitution. \n\n1. __Bankruptcy court__. Federal courts can deal with matters relating to both business and personal bankruptcy. Different types of bankruptcy may be filed depending on the individual situation, but all bankruptcy cases are determined by the federal court system, and cannot be tried at the state level. \n2. __US Tax Court__. Organized by Congress under Article I of the US Constitution, this court of special jurisdiction oversees all matters related to federal tax cases. These cases aren’t tried by juries, but rather a special trial judge. \n3. __US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces__. Originally the United States Court of Military Appeals (changed to its current name in 1994), this court has jurisdiction over all military appeals in the United States. It consists of five federal judges who can oversee appeals relating to active duty members or those subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. \n4. __Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims__. Created in 1988, this court was established in response to a lack of judicial review of claims made by veterans following the Vietnam War. Cases are often brought here by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). Decisions determined in these cases can be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.\n5. __US Court of Federal Claims__. This federal court, which was not established under Article I, hears claims lodged against the US Government over contractual monetary claims. They can share jurisdiction with district courts for monetary amounts under 10,000 dollars, but have sole jurisdiction on cases over 10,000 dollars.\nGet the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com) for exclusive access to video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Paul Krugman, David Axelrod, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Karl Rove, Jane Goodall, and more.\nThe federal court system is one of the institutions aimed at serving justice within the United States of America.